Aandemaner art and shamanism

(Aandemaner = Danish sorcerer/shaman¹)

© John Russell -Møller 2008

In the beginning there were no spirits or gods.

I have spent a lot of time in Sápmi (Lapland), and there they have a non-physical person named Bieggolmai. The word means the Wind-man (biegg=wind + olmai=man). The Sámi people's perception was (and for many still is), that Bieggolmai is a man, who stands with two shovels and scoops the winds.
When the Christians came to Sápmi they translated the word Bieggolmai to “the wind god”. Others have translated it “the wind spirit”.

If a Buddhist, a Christian and an anthropologist each write a book on Buddhism, they will write three different books.
The Buddhist sees Buddhism from the inside and writes from the inside. The Christian sees Buddhism from the outside and writes from the outside. The anthropologist also sees Buddhism from the outside, but from a different perspective than the Christian.
It is perfectly natural, that things turn out this way, and, no doubt, all three books each have their place. No one of the books is right or wrong – they are just different.

But if the Inuit in Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) don't write any books about their kind of aandemaner (literally: spirit invoker) art; the result is, that we only get the two other descriptions of the Inuit's aandemaner art. Their non-physical persons are presented as gods or spirits.
The Inuit speak of the Moon-man; we Danes talk of the Bog-woman and the Lantern-man. Other places on the earth, nature people speak of the animals and trees as their brothers and sisters – and other relatives. In Denmark we speak of Elder-mother.

Something seems to indicate, that concepts such as “gods/goddesses” and “spirits” are of recent origin. By that I mean, possibly no more that 10-20.000 years old. What do I know? Before that time, I believe it is likely these words didn't exist.
I am not a linguistics expert, but we all know that new words are being invented all the time; so, at some point, someone must have invented the word “god” and the word “spirit”. Consequently, there must have been a time, when these words did not exist.
Also, something seems to indicate, that before the invention of “gods/goddesses” and “spirits”, people perceived the beings, who do not have a tangible body, as humans – and also perceived animals, plants, the moon etc. as humans. As I like to say: “It is not we humans, who also are animals. It is the animals, who also are humans”!


It is the American anthropologist Michael Harner's great achievement, that we westerners have been given a new gateway to our old spirituality and religion. Michael Harner has made a great effort developing, what he has given the name “core shamanism”. Through many years of research, with travels to many indigenous peoples who still have some of their traditional religion and spirituality preserved, he has developed a modern “shamanism”, which contains what he considers to be the core of all “shamanism”.

Having said this, it must also be said, that in core shamanism, the core has been reached by removing the apple's peel and meat.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that there are “shamans” who are searching for the old peels and meat, in an effort to make the apple whole again. Also, it can't surprise anyone, that there are people who want to put new peel and meat on “shamanism”, that was never there in the first place.

When I use citation marks abound the words “shaman” and “shamanism”, it is because the word “shaman” as a common term for all aandemaners on earth, is a new invention – and that the word “shaman-ism” is a modern construction.
Amongst the Inuit “some one” who does “these sort of things” is called an angakkoq; amongst the Zulus a sangoma; the Danes an aandemaner; the Sámi a noide; the Evinki a shaman; the English a sorcerer; the Mexicans a hechicero etc. All peoples have their own word for “such” a person.

The word “shaman” is a borrowed word from the Evenki (Tungus) people in Siberia, and has been imported into the English language (and many other languages). We have then made our own definition of, what the words means to us.
To borrow words from other languages is, of course, perfectly natural; and it enriches our own language. The word shaman is currently used to refer to any aandemaner anywhere. In the following, I shall use the word shaman in this way. Nowadays the word shamanism is defined something like: “To believe in spirits; and to collaborate with them”.

Because indigenous people's wisdom is orally transmitted, and is not transmitted in writing, we are left with two problems. Firstly: Almost all of what is written about the shamans (angakkoqs; sangomas; noides; sorcerers; aandemaners etc.) doings, is written by Christian and atheistic westerners. And secondly: The peel and meat has been removed. By religious people shamanism is defines as a religion2; and by scientists it is defined as some methods3 or a technique4.


”Aandemaner art is a kind of shamanism – but shamanism is not a kind of aandemaner art”!
Shamanism is based on logic and techniques – aandemaneri is based on magic and art.

My own training to become an aandemaner took 10 years. I lived 3 months every summer on a mountain in the wilderness in Sápmi (Lapland); where I was alone most of the time collecting spirit-helpers, who taught me the art.

Read Knud Rasmussen's account of how to become an Inuit aandemaner.

When people who are not aandemaners look at me from the outside, they call me a shaman, and what I do for shamanism. When I speak with them on their terms, I also call myself a shaman, and what I do for shamanism. But when I behold myself from the inside, I call myself an aandemaner, and what I do for aandemaner art.

I am not opposed to any kind of shamanism, and in my opinion they all contribute to enrich shamanism. Nothing I write is meant as a criticism of other shamanic traditions. I do not believe one kind of shamanism is better than any other kind.
What I write, is a presentation of what I see, when I look at other shaman traditions from the outside, and my own tradition from the inside.

In my tradition it is important: To “see”, and live in fellowship with, the spirits who live in nature; to “see” that the dream-world also is a part of nature; to acknowledge, that there exist evil spirits; and to acknowledge, that good spirits are fallible.

Just as the good spirits are “seen” in a kind of nature aspect, i.e. like animals, humans etc., so also are the evil spirits “seen” in a kind of nature aspect; that is to say, as animals, humans and the like. Beings who are part animal and part human, may also occur.

All spirits have human and magical attributes. All animals have human and magical attributes. All humans have human and magical attributes. In children's literature the animal's human attributes are obvious. Just think of Winnie the Pooh.
A good spirit can get jealous, and an evil spirit can fall in love. A human can fly (learn to fly) up to the sky and visit the Moon-man; or climb down to the under-earth and visit the dwarves, who live there - which can be a doubtful affair, by the way!

In the old days, the aandemaner lived in societies where everyone used hunting tools and weapons. Expressions like fighting to keep hunger from your door and to combat illness, were usual and still are. The aandemaner battles against the evil spirits. He or she fights for his people's life and health. He hunts for spirit helpers. The aandemaner's language is full of hunting and warrior expressions.

Basically it is considered, that good things are caused by good spirits, and bad things are caused by evil spirits.
If a person looses his soul (or part of it), it is because an evil spirit has caused an event witch has caused the soul loss – if the evil spirit simply hasn't stolen the soul.

“No good fortune without good spirits. No misfortune without evil spirits”!


When a person does something that is beneficial and useful, it is because he is being inspired (encouraged) by a good spirit – and when a person does something that is harmful, he is being inspired (tempted) by a bad spirit. When a good spirit does something that is harmful, it is because it is being inspired by a bad spirit.

If we take a look at the people in everyday Denmark who commit violent crime, we can see: that there are those who do things that hurt their victims a little bit; there are those who hurt there victims severely; and there are those who subject their victims to the most outrageous kinds of painful torture.
One reason for this is, that there are evil spirits that are worse than others – and, that a person can be more or less possessed by an evil spirit.

In core shamanism, it seems that in general, they have chosen not to concern themselves particularly with evil spirits. Often forces witch have a negative influence on people are called misplaced energies. The positive powers are perceived as animals, humans, plants etc. – but the negative powers, more often than not, are perceived as things.

Good spirits and evil spirits, versus good spirits and misplaced energies?

When we humanize our fellow beings, we make it possible for ourselves to relate to them with empathy, respect and brotherly love. When we thingify our fellow beings, we make it possible for ourselves to treat them inhumanely.
By thingifying dehumanizing the Jews, the Nazis made it possible for themselves to treat them inhumanely. But by dehumanizing others, you get an honourless relationship to them, because you thingify dehumanize a part of yourself. By thingifying dehumanizing or ignoring the evil spirits, you get an honourless relationship to them – and a part of yourself.

”An honourless warrior is a weak warrior. An honourless shaman is a weak shaman”!

Apart form this, it is problematic that you remove (relocate) the harmful energies, but do not defeat the evil spirits, who are making the bad energies (creating the misplacement).
If you are dealing with an evil spirit in the shape of a dog, who is shitting and pissing evil power on a man so he gets sick; it is all very well that you clean the faeces and urine of him, but you must also fight to defeat the dog spirit who is making the poisonous spirit shit and spirit piss - witch can be hard work, I can tell you!

Fortunately, there can be a half or a whole year between an aandemaner shaman meets an evil spirit (i.e. a venom-dog), who is so powerful, that it takes an entire night's yelling, screaming and fighting to defeat it – and you end up having more froth on your mouth than it has.

For the aandemaner shaman it is imperative to have a well organized army of spirit helpers and allies. It is not unusual, that you spend four or five times more of your time recruiting spirit helpers, and making and sustaining alliances, than you later use doing healing ceremonies and the like.


All across Mother Earth, it is widely recognized amongst shamans, that a person has more than one soul. Although the angakkoqs speak of “the” soul, they perceive that we humans have numerous souls. For example, every joint in the body has a soul. In Altai the kams (kam=shaman) say, a human has three souls.
For my own part, I was taught to operate with four primary souls. The body soul, the dream soul, the destiny soul, and the shepherd soul.
The body soul takes care of the body, and when it leaves, the body dies. The dream soul is the soul that flies away when we dream or trance travel shamanically. The destiny soul is our spiritual compass; witch helps us find our way – to the destination. The shepherd soul keeps all our souls together, so we don't disintegrate.

The souls are connected to each other through different threads and ties – what I sometimes call the soul's veins and nerve threads.
According to Carlos Castaneda, Don Juan speaks of the soul as a luminous egg. However, each of the four souls is constructed differently and they look different. It is only the body soul that looks like a luminous egg. In addition, the souls are made form different kinds of spirit (material).

If any of the soul's connections are damaged, it is the shaman's job to repair them. There are lots of threads, going this way and that throughout the souls, and meet in what is sometimes called assemblage points. It is important for a shaman to be capable of manoeuvring with his assemblage points – that is to say, to be able to move them from one position to another.

I agree with Don Juan, that the absolutely most important thing for a sorcerer (aandemaner, shaman etc.), is to be an impeccable warrior. All healing techniques and those kinds of things are secondary. The spiritual warrior skills create the power witch is needed to perform the healing techniques powerfully.

"Stronger warrior power, begets stronger healing power"!


The aandemaner's work rarely results in total annihilation of his enemies. More often than not, the aandemaner and his allies only manage to corner the evil spirit and decommission it – after witch the evil spirit licks its wounds, reorganizes itself, and starts a new attack somewhere else some other time.

The aandemaner devotes his life to create and maintain harmony and balance in life and nature – not least his fellow human being's life and nature.

Nine days out of ten, shamanism is something nice and cosy, where you sit around the camp fire and tell good stories, or do healing ceremonies and counselling in your practise for the benefit of others etc. - but in a split second the aandemaner must be able to switch on his most aggressive and violent spirit power, if the situation demands it.

Then the battle against illness, selfishness, misfortune and evil resumes – until peace, health, harmony and balance is restored once more.


1There are different Danish words for the old fashioned Danish socerer/shaman: Aandemaner (literally: spirit invoker); Volva or Seid-Woman; and Seid-Man. The word 'aandemaner' is often used to refer to the prehistoric type of spirit invoker (shaman).
2Webster's Dictionary. Shamanism: The type of religion which once prevailed among all the Ural-Altaic peoples (Tungusic, Mongol, and Turkish).
3Michael Harner. Shamanism: System of methods for healing and problem-solving.
4Mircea Eliade. Shamanism: Technique of religious ecstasy.
Authors comment: Religious people often consider religion as, amongst other things, also being a healing and problem solving system.